FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — One of the best offensive linemen to ever wear a New York Jets uniform officially walked away from the game Thursday.
Tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson, who played 10 seasons for Gang Green, held his retirement news conference in Florham Park, telling the story about the open-heart surgery he had when he was 9 years old and how he was later advised not to play contact sports.
“That 10-inch scar in the middle of my chest did not represent triumph to me,” Ferguson said. “It represented defeat. It meant I was handicapped. This had been boiling inside of me for some time, and I reached a point that I could no longer accept my situation.”
He said he decided to play football in junior high school. He and his mother first consulted with a cardiologist, who said Ferguson’s previous doctor had been overprotective.
“We don’t always know where a decision can take us,” said Ferguson, 32. “How is it that the same boy who had open-heart surgery and was never supposed to even play this game (could) play at the highest level for 10 years, every snap, never suffer an injury? I didn’t do that. God did.”
Said owner Woody Johnson of the quiet, hulking tackle: “If I look at Brick, I think when I said (he is) one of the finest players ever to be a Jet, that’s absolutely true.”
Ferguson informed the team last week that he had decided to retire. The move came after the Jets asked him to take a pay cut — he was set to count $14.1 million against the team’s salary cap — as they try to re-sign quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Ferguson said his contract situation was not behind his decision to retire.
He also said concerns over brain trauma did not play a factor. After seeing the movie “Concussion” last year, Ferguson wrote a piece for Sports Illustrated in which he said, “I feel a bit betrayed by the people or committees put in place by the league who did not have my best interests at heart.”
He expanded on that statement on Thursday.
“I think learning about that was very groundbreaking for me, but I don’t attribute that discovery to why I’m doing this today,” Ferguson said. “I really feel like when I came in this league I wanted to be the best that I could be. I wanted to go against the best and defend the best, and when I could no longer do that, I wanted to be able to kind of step away and be happy with the things that I accomplished.”
He said there wasn’t a single moment that led to his decision, describing it as more of a gradual realization.
“I think during this last season there was a period of ‘maybe things are changing,'” he said. “I think it felt as though as perhaps the automatic thought that I would always be this left tackle, I felt like that was changing. And I also recognize that playing this game at a high level, it’s not easy, but when that continues to get harder and harder and harder, I think you also have to ask yourself, ‘How long can I continue to do this?'”
A Freeport, Long Island, native, Ferguson was drafted by the Jets with the fourth overall pick in 2006 out of the University of Virginia. In 10 seasons with the Jets, he missed just one offensive snap — on a trick play.
He was selected to three consecutive Pro Bowls from 2009-11.
What’s next for ‘Brick? He said he’s keeping his options open and has “some things I might consider pursuing.”
On Thursday, Jets center Nick Mangold, who was part of the same draft class with Ferguson, took out a full-page ad in the New York Post to show his appreciation for his longtime teammate.
“Thank you for being a great teammate, Jet and friend,” the ad read. “We had an unbelievable ride together. Congrats on an amazing career.”
The Jets last weekend pulled off a trade with the Denver Broncos for Ferguson’s presumed replacement at left tackle, perennial Pro Bowler Ryan Clady.